(Originally published 24 March 2016)
Conor Lawlor (Feridia Walsh-Peelo) is an ordinary boy who is put into public school after his parents fall on hard times. Whilst attending Synge Street, he becomes infatuated with a girl named Raphina (Lucy Boynton) and lies about being in a band in order to impress her. Getting some lads from his school, they actually form a band as Conor is aided by his waster, musically-obsessed older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor).
None of this is exactly new territory for writer-director John Carney, having previously done the ‘aspiring musician’ movies Once and Begin Again. And, being honest, the first ten minutes or so of Sing Street was pretty old hat and nothing about it wowed me. However, once the band start being formed and we’re introduced to more members, the plot really starts to get going and, by the end, it won me over with its rebellious charm and infatuation with 80s pop.
Yes, we’re in the 80s for this one, and one of Sing Street’s biggest appeals is its soundtrack. Not only is the score energetic and engaging, the film is filled with great 80s tracks that any fan of the decade will adore. Bands like Duran Duran, The Cure, A-Ha, The Clash, etc. are name checked and listed, and the reverence and energy these musicians evoke is just infectious. The way Conor (later dubbed ‘Cosmo’) changes his style to reflect the current band he’s listening to is both poignant and hilarious. Also it’s original soundtrack with songs from the band can be just as earwormy and well written as the classics.
It’s not just the great music that makes this film work, it’s the cast. Lucy Boynton is a scene stealer and mesmerising in the role; it’s not hard to get what Conor sees in her. She also brings a lot of vulnerability, which makes her character not too stock or unreachable. Jack Reynor does the same, playing a very different role than we’re used from him, but acing the lackadaisical but troubled Brendan. It truly shows what a diverse talent he is. Homegrowm faves Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy add a lot of presence, though sadly are not in the movie that often.
Probably one of Sing Street’s finest aspects is the band members themselves. All of them are unknown, and these kids are just great! Despite not getting as much focus as Conor, Raphina and Brendan, each of them feels distinct and brings something extra. They feel like real children, led by a breakout performance from Ferdia Walsh-Peelo.
Sing Street has that charm that Once had, just focused on rebelling facing-the-world teenagers rather than jaded, world-weary hipsters. It honestly made me feel like a teen again, wanting to take on the world my own way and go on mad adventures with a pretty girl and my mates. If you don’t want to pick up an instrument after watching this, be you 15 or 50, you are dead inside. All of this is well trodden ground from both the director and most coming-of-age flicks, but it’s charm and easygoing nature make up for that. An endearing and relatable piece, hopefully one that will find its audience with the youths who want to stand out and rebel.